Simulating acoustic waves in spotted stars

Emanuele Papini, Aaron C. Birch, Laurent Gizon, Shravan M. Hanasoge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Acoustic modes of oscillation are affected by stellar activity, however it is unclear how starspots contribute to these changes. Here we investigate the nonmagnetic effects of starspots on global modes with angular degree ℓ ≤ 2 in highly active stars, and characterize the spot seismic signature on synthetic light curves. We perform 3D time-domain simulations of linear acoustic waves to study their interaction with a model starspot. We model the spot as a 3D change in the sound speed stratification with respect to a convectively stable stellar background, built from solar Model S. We perform a parametric study by considering different depths and perturbation amplitudes. Exact numerical simulations allow the investigation of the wavefield-spot interaction beyond first order perturbation theory. The interaction of the axisymmetric modes with the starspot is strongly nonlinear. As mode frequency increases, the frequency shifts for radial modes exceed the value predicted by linear theory, while the shifts for the ℓ = 2,m = 0 modes are smaller than predicted by linear theory, with avoided-crossing-like patterns forming between the m = 0 and m = 1 mode frequencies. The nonlinear behavior increases with increasing spot amplitude and/or decreasing depth. Linear theory still reproduces the correct shifts for nonaxisymmetric modes. In the nonlinear regime the mode eigenfunctions are not pure spherical harmonics, but rather a mixture of different spherical harmonics. This mode mixing, together with the frequency changes, may lead to misidentification of the modes in the observed acoustic power spectra.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA145
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • Asteroseismology
  • Stars: activity
  • Starspots
  • Sun: activity
  • Sun: helioseismology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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